Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder to wrestle at his alma mater, Good Counsel, on Sunday

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Kyle Snyder has spent so much of his life pushing the boundaries of what's possible for a young wrestler that it's almost strange when a chapter of his story entails returning to the familiar.

But that's what the Woodbine resident will do Sunday when he competes at his alma mater, Good Counsel, five months after he seized an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro and stamped himself as the future of U.S. wrestling.


Snyder's Ohio State team, again a strong national championship contender, will wrestle Maryland in an afternoon dual meet in the main gym at Snyder's old stomping grounds.

A sellout crowd of 1,200 will pack the place to cheer the conquering hero.


"I think everybody will probably be rooting for Kyle, even the Maryland fans," said his high school coach and close friend, Skylar Saar. "He's an easy guy to root for."

When Ohio State coach Tom Ryan recruited Snyder, he promised the Buckeyes would wrestle a home meet at Good Counsel during Snyder's four years. It's something Ryan has done for other top wrestlers over the years, and the atmosphere at such meets is generally festive.

"It's definitely something I've been looking forward to," Snyder said in a phone interview.

He will sign autographs for an hour before the meet and then attempt to maintain his unbeaten 2016-2017 record when he faces Maryland's heavyweight, Youssif Hemida. He has pinned all but one collegiate opponent this season, and Hemida would need a career-best effort to remain competitive in the match.

Nonetheless, Maryland coach Kerry McCoy, himself a former two-time Olympian, hopes Hemida will relish the moment.

"Most people don't get a chance to meet an Olympic gold medalist, let alone stand on the same mat with an Olympic gold medalist," he said. "So it's a great opportunity to go out there and be able to measure yourself against one of the best to ever do it."

McCoy has known Snyder since he was a high school wrestler, visiting Maryland's training camps. And he said this is the "perfect time" for him to come home to a warm reception.

"We're glad to be a part of it," McCoy said.


Snyder's younger brother, Kevin, and McDonogh product Myles Martin also wrestle for Ohio State, and two other Good Counsel graduates, Jhared Simmons and Adam Whitesell, wrestle for Maryland.

But there's no question who will headline the show. Snyder, who turned 21 in November, is no normal college junior.

For one thing, strangers walk up to him on campus and ask to take pictures — business as usual for an Ohio State football star but less typical in Snyder's generally anonymous sport.

"When you're a wrestler and people know who you are, that alone is different," he said. "But I'm cool with it."

He received a $250,000 bonus from the U.S. Olympic Committee for his gold-medal win in Rio. The Ravens, Orioles and Washington Redskins all honored him with on-field celebrations in the ensuing months. He visited the White House and shook President Barack Obama's hand.

He made his season debut for Ohio State the weekend before Thanksgiving, then jetted off to wrestle in Kharkiv, Ukraine (where he actually lost twice) while most of his peers were still digesting turkey.


He's been busy enough with international tournaments and other promotional appearances that he's wrestled just five times for the Buckeyes this season.

But Snyder does not feel different.

"Wrestling is still the same," he said. "Training is the same. School is the same."

He actually felt stranger returning to Ohio State's wrestling room after he won a World Championship in 2015 — his international coming-out party — than after the Olympics.

"My friends don't really care about the accolades," he said.

When Saar took his Good Counsel team to Ohio for a tournament in December, Snyder visited with his old coach and the younger wrestlers.


"He was the same old Kyle," Saar said. "Still driven, still focused. All he cares about is getting better."

In the wrestling world, Snyder has been a marked man since high school, when he went 179-0 in three years at Good Counsel, emerged as the No. 1 recruit in the country and gave up his senior year for a residence at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado.

At age 19, he became the youngest World Champion in U.S. wrestling history.

He was the story of the college sport last year, when he abruptly changed his plans to redshirt and knocked off N.C. State's monstrous Nick Gwiazdoswki in an epic NCAA heavyweight final.

Snyder wants opponents to come at him as hard and creatively as possible. If teammates aren't matching his intensity in practice, he'll goad them into wrestling more aggressively. How else is he going to reach his ultimate goal to be the best in the history of his sport?

Before the Olympics and the NCAA title and the World Championship, Snyder made a conscious choice to stop worrying about wins and losses. Instead, he'd devote himself to wrestling perfectly and beautifully each time he laced up his shoes.


That mentality has carried him through the post-Olympic period, which can be a difficult comedown for many athletes.

"My life was great before the Olympics, so it wasn't like if I didn't win, I wouldn't be happy," he said. "I'm still trying to perfect my wrestling, to become a master of all positions. I'll stay in that mindset until the day I die."

McCoy is probably one of the few U.S. wrestlers who can identify with Snyder's outlook. He won 131 of his last 132 matches at Penn State and went on to the Olympics. So he also competed with an ample target on his back.

"I really focused on myself," he said. "My goal was to be the best I could be and score points, so it didn't matter if I was wrestling the No. 2 guy in the country or an unranked guy from a Division II school. It wasn't about winning or losing. It was about if I went out there and wrestled as hard as I could wrestle and score as many points as I could score, the winning and losing would take care of itself. Odds are if I'm exhausted stepping off that mat, the other guy won't even be able to stand up."

The same words could just as easily come from Snyder's mouth, which is part of the reason McCoy is such a fan. He also appreciates that no matter how well Snyder is wrestling, he always asks questions about how to tweak a given move or escape a certain situation.

"I love the pace that he wrestles as a big guy," McCoy said. "He's always attacking, always trying to score. You very rarely see him take a step backward. His character as a person comes across in his wrestling, because he's truly grateful for the opportunity to go out and compete."


Snyder has never thought of stopping at one Olympics. He'd like to wrestle in three or four, however long he can keep going.

He also talks, at least casually, about trying his hand with mixed martial arts after college. "They put on a great show," he said of UFC.

He's never trained at boxing, and that sounds like a good time to a guy whose motor never stops revving. Could he balance an MMA training schedule with Olympic wrestling preparations? Well, he likes the fact it sounds nearly impossible.

"It could be a terrible failure," he said. "Or it could be a great success."